Hello everyone, today and tomorrow, we Czechs and Slovaks remember the 46th anniversary of the invasion of Soviet (and Polish, Hungarian and Bulgarian) forces to Czechoslovakia. This act brought the so-called Prague Spring events to an end and with it the reforms of the communist government, throwing Czechoslovakia back into two decades of “normalization” before the regime finally crumbled. A lot has been written about what happened in the night from 20.8. to 21.8.1968 and even wikipedia covers the topic relatively well. Czechoslovakia was the victim of (by then already slowly failing) Soviet Union’s lust for power, just like the bloody revolution in Hungary 15 years ago. In the aftermath of the invasion, prominent Czechoslovak members of communist party were kidnapped, brought to Moscow and forced to sign the so-called Moscow Protocol, formally agreeing to the invasion. And they all did – all but one. His name was František Kriegel. Just like the entire history of Czechoslovakia, František Kriegel too was a person of contradictions. For one, he was a hardcore communist before the changes in 1968. He was born in Halič in 1908 and studied to become a doctor in Prague. In the 30′s, he decided to join the Spanish International Brigades as a volunteer and fought against Franco’s fascists in Spain. Here, he reached the rank of Major and after the defeat of republican forces in 1939, he joined the ranks of Red Cross and left with other doctors for China (when it was under attack from Japan). He served there as a military doctor until 1945 and was generally praised by the Americans, for whom he worked on a contract. From 1945, he became one of the leading representatives of Prague communist organization and in 1948, he actively participated in the communist coup, that installed the regime as a People’s Militia leader in Prague. Between 1949 and 1953, he was a deputy minister of health in the communist government. After the antisemitic purge in mid 50′s, he was however removed from any power and ended up as a factory doctor at Tatra Smíchov. In early 60′s, he went to Cuba and helped there to organize the local healthcare. However, in 1964 elections, he was “elected” to the parliament (by that time, elections were of course staged with the communist party winning every time and other parties were there just for the show) – he served as a member until the end of his term in 1968 and later became its chairman as well as the chairman of the foreign affairs committee. He achieved one of the highest ranks in communist party in 1968, when he was elected as a member of the Central Committee of Czechoslovak Communist Party (the executive ruling body of the state, effectively the organ with all the power) between April and August 1968. This was when the invasion happened. Apart from the abovementioned activities, he also worked as a researcher in the Rheumatoid Diseases Research Institute and as a doctor in Thomayer hospital between 1963 and 1969. After the invasion, he was, along with other Czechoslovak high-ranking officials, kidnapped and brought by force to Moscow. There, they were interrogated (and in some cases tortured) for days and in the end, they were forced to sign the so-called Moscow Protocol, legitimizing the invasion of Soviet forces. He alone refused to sign it and was to remain incarcerated – only personal intervention of the president, general Ludvík Svoboda (Hero of the USSR and the commander of Czechoslovak armed forces on eastern front in WW2) saved him and allowed him to return home with the rest of the politicians (Svoboda’s reputation was at that point nearly legendary and even the Soviets dared not to discredit someone, awarded with the Hero of the USSR medal). After these events, his career was effectively over. By the end of August 1968, he was removed from his high Central Committee position and in Fall 1968, he, as one of only 4 members of parliament (the others were Gertruda Sekaninová-Čakrtová, František Vodsloň and Hana Fuková), voted against accepting the “agreement on ‘temporary’ stay of Soviet forces in Czechoslovakia” (as we know, words have a bit different meaning in Russian and in this case, “temporary” turned out to be 20 long years). In May 1969, when he was to be removed from the Central Committee altogether, he had a speech as a member of the parliament, condemning openly the invasion and “treaties” with Soviet Union as written not by a pen, but by gun barrels and that the Moscow Protocol went against the will of the people. After his speech, it was decided not only to remove him from the Central Committee, but to cancel his Communist Party membership as well (a step that usually equalled to social suicide, as non-communist citizens were ostracized in many ways, including, for example, less or no healthcare, their children were not allowed to study universities etc.). As a result, he lost the Central Committee membership, Communist Party membership and his parliament mandate too. In 1970, he was forced to retire. He was one of the first people to sign the Charter 77. He died as a result of an infarction on 3rd of December, 1979 in Prague. As a final insult, the communists did not allow him to be buried properly, cremating his body instead without any ceremony. And meanwhile in Wargaming… “From Russia with love” and “Hammer and Sickle”. I am quite sure František Kriegel knew exactly what Russian love looks like. Source: www.valka.cz/clanek_15196.html

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